When it would drop below freezing, the denim would become ice. My rec-league soccer shirt would stretch, pull at the collar, form a semicircle of crystals. Once I took a bat and swung at a frozen apron. It exploded. It was clean and it was red and it was in hundreds of pieces by the brick wall.
We grew up without a dryer. There was a washing machine that looked like it was made during the Carter administration, in the small room in the back, that was beside the small enclosed porch, behind the small kitchen, at the back of our small house. The machine would shake mightily. The house would heave and breathe in and out as if it were just trying to keep the spinning under control. That it might lift skywards. Taking the ceiling and the collection of one off socks with it. But there was a hole where the washer’s brother should be.
There were four small boys. One small girl. One small mother. And a clothesline of two poles, T shaped, with five wires strung between them. Those wires would hold all the years of clothes. When they were new. When they were on their third round of hand-me-down. It was a wholly unimpressive collection: flannel shirts of my dad’s before the divorce, jerseys from years past, charitable donations from those who didn’t want to give to the Salvation Army, but who thought we’d appreciate the gesture. If the gesture had name brands, yes. If not, keep walking. I want the finest. So the kids across the street will not only covet my air-drying, but my Duckhead.
I always wanted a dryer. Wanted to smell like the others who smell like dryer sheets with names like ‘Springtime’ or ‘Summer Rain.’ Real clothes line dried clothes don’t smell like that. That’s what the wordsmiths say, but were they to really smell it, they’d name it ‘Dirt’ or ‘Bugs’ or just ‘Dry.’
One month we had one. Momma had saved up her tip money and found one used in the paper. We hauled it over. Plugged it up. Used it a dozen times. Blew the fuse.
Our house had a heart, and we were breaking it.
Cause she knew that was where we learned about each other. The Whitson brothers, growing up under those wires.
How many pull-ups we could muster on the T bars. Out there, seeing if the blood washed out from our shirts from that time we’d gotten in that fight. Rushing, the four of us, to pull the sheets down before the summer rain saw to it that we’d sleep on bare mattresses.
The worn red-clay paths underneath each of the wires changed through the years, from the boys then men-sized feet walking, up and down, time and time again, all seasons, rarely in snow, often at dusk, when the lightening bugs were coming out and the summer sky was flashing with heat lightening and we were there, together, with a basket of clothes and nowhere else to go and no real plans to go anywhere else besides Alabama, anyways.